Madam Speaker, I am happy to outline the government's position on Bill C-395, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act.
I want to commend the member for Carleton, because the end he is seeking to achieve in this legislation is noble and good. However, the means to reach that end are not consistent with our vision of federalism and productive collaboration with provinces and territories.
The bill seeks to help encourage more people to enter the workforce. The government is taking, and has taken, substantive steps toward the same end. The government believes that in order to face the challenges of today and tomorrow, we will need the hard work and creativity of all Canadians.
We are here because our constituents put us here and, as legislators, we must not only do the right thing, we must also do it right. The debate we are about to have hinges on that nuance. That will be central to the debate today because there is a wide gulf between the approach we are proposing and this proposed approach.
The approach proposed in this bill involves imposing more conditions on the provinces and then talking to them about it after the fact. That is not our vision of federalism and the work we need to do with the provinces. The provinces want us to work with them, to collaborate, especially on matters that are under their jurisdiction.
The previous government was in power for 10 years and could have introduced a condition like this, but it did not. The previous government was in power for 10 years and my colleague from Carleton was the minister in charge of the portfolio, but not once in 10 years did he meet with his provincial counterparts to discuss this important issue.
The bill seeks to introduce a condition to the Canada social transfer whereby the transfer payments to provinces and territories would be reduced in cases where persons with disabilities face marginal effective tax rates above 100%. These high marginal effective tax rates are largely the result of the design of provincial and territorial social assistance programs.
The provisions of this bill are not consistent with the intent of the Canada social transfer, which exists to provide funding to provincial and territorial governments while allowing flexibility in the design and administration of programs in their areas of responsibility, including the delivery of social assistance.
What the bill is proposing would amount to an encroachment on an area of provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial governments are accountable directly to their residents for their spending in their areas of responsibility, and that includes program spending that results from the Canada social transfer payments.
Our government is committed to helping the next generation of Canadians succeed. We believe that every Canadian deserves an equal and fair chance at success, so we agree that removing barriers to entering and staying in the workforce is a principled goal.
However, this is a challenge that no order of government can take on alone. We need the support of our partners. Introducing a condition that could result in reduced CST payments to provinces and territories, which is what this bill proposes, could effectively jeopardize social programming for all Canadians, including post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, and support for children, while doing nothing to address the barriers to employment for persons with disabilities. In other words, this is not a preferable scenario.
There are more effective ways of improving access to good jobs for persons with disabilities. A more collaborative approach with provincial and territorial governments, one that seeks to address labour market barriers faced by persons with disabilities, would achieve more than what is being proposed today.
Our government recognizes the importance of the issue raised by the bill. We are committed to working with provinces and territories to figure out how to give persons with disabilities more opportunities to work and more incentives to join and stay in the workforce. In fact, our government has taken many actions to do just that.
In budget 2018, we introduced the new Canada workers benefit. This new benefit is a strengthened version of the working income tax benefit and will come into effect next year. The new Canada workers benefit will put more money in the pockets of low-income workers and, in doing so, give people help as they transition to work.
For example, a low-income worker earning $15,000 could receive up to almost $500 more from the Canada workers benefit in 2019 than in 2018 under the current system. The government also proposes to increase the maximum benefit provided through the Canada workers benefit disability supplement by an additional $160 to offer greater support to eligible Canadians with disabilities.
The Canada workers benefit will offer real help to more than two million Canadians who are working hard to join the middle class. Enhancements to the benefit, starting in 2019, will also raise roughly 70,000 Canadians out of poverty. This improved benefit will help low-income working Canadians, including those with disabilities, make ends meet.
In budget 2018, the government also provided funding for a new program to develop and enhance pre-apprenticeship training. Working in partnership with provinces, territories, post-secondary institutions, training providers, unions, and employers, it will help Canadians, particularly under-represented groups, including women, indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and newcomers, to explore the trades, gain work experience, make informed career choices, and develop the skills needed to succeed.
We know that labour market barriers faced by persons with disabilities are broader than financial disincentives. That is why the government has committed to introducing accessibility legislation to proactively identify, remove, and prevent accessibility barriers for persons with disabilities in the federal jurisdiction.
Since taking office, the government has also made a number of investments in federal programming to support persons with disabilities. I will now detail a few examples from our first two budgets.
To increase investments in training and employment supports under the labour market development agreements and workforce development agreements, budget 2017 provided $2.7 billion over six years, starting in 2017-18. These agreements are the means by which the federal government transfers funds to provinces and territories to improve employment opportunities, including for persons with disabilities.
Budget 2017 also provided close to $400 million over three years to support the youth employment strategy, which includes funding for vulnerable youth, including youth with disabilities, to overcome barriers to employment.
Budget 2016 and budget 2017 provided $81 million over 10 years to expand the enabling accessibility fund, which funds capital projects that improve the accessibility of community and workplace infrastructure.
Also, budget 2016 provided $73 million over four years to support new work-integrated learning opportunities for young Canadians in the science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business fields. The program provides wage incentives for employers who hire from under-represented groups, including persons with disabilities.
Our government's position is clear: We need to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy are felt by more and more people, with good, well-paying jobs for the middle class. We need to maximize workforce participation, including for persons with disabilities, and create more incentives for people to join and stay in the workforce. The new Canada workers benefit, and the increased disability supplement that is provided through this benefit, is a step in the right direction.
Again, I would like to thank my colleague for raising that important issue in the House through Bill C-395. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, I believe the end he is seeking to achieve is a good and noble one, and we share that objective. However, the means he has chosen to achieve it, essentially coercing the provinces through a condition to the Canada social transfer, is not the right way to go. This is something that can be better achieved through collaborating and working with the provinces and territories.